Yoga is one of those activities that seem to be invisible until you begin practicing and then yoga is everywhere! I am thrilled to see such a love for learning in Chicago and beyond in my cultural community and I get lots of questions about my training and my experience as a yogi. Some people feel intimidated by the practice and find themselves shying away from studios because they don’t know what to expect. Others may have had a studio experience, loved the space but not the instruction, then there are those that fell in love with the practice but felt disconnected from the experiences offered by a studio. Finding your studio flow could very well take some time. Be patient as you take classes here and there and go in with an open mind and open heart.
There are over 20 something studios in Chicago if you google it, but many more when you open it to the metro area. This brief blog entry gives a little information on things to consider when looking to meet your needs through joining a yoga community.
If you are on the south and west side of Chicago you may feel like you are in a yoga studio desert. This may be true for other segregated cities like Chicago as well. It isn’t to say there are absolutely NO yoga studios, but they may not be as accessible on one side of town in comparison to another. Students may have to give up more of their free time commuting to their calm but this is not an issue in my opinion. When there are alternatives for time and travel if there is a yoga studio that you have been waiting to get into plan some time to visit. It may not be your home studio yet it may be a place of solitude and physically and metaphorically putting some distance between yourself and the familiar can be good for the soul. Yes easy access to a studio is at the top of my list but I do value a little “staycation” every now and again. DON’T let the distance discourage you.
We know Trap Yoga is in full swing in these streets….lol and I myself love teaching it but there lineages of yoga that may be very energetically different for every body. Bikram for example is a 90 minute class with 26 poses it is taught in a room that is 104 degrees and 40% humidity…yeah its hot as hell. The class however is the exact same class and a totally different class each time. It doesn’t matter who is teaching the sequence of the poses is exactly the same, while the cues may change the class itself is very consistent. For people look for reliability, for people looking for some stability Bikram can offer that in a sense of there are NO surprises other than you finding shifts in your balance and flexibility. It is a beautiful practice but the heat may dissuade some and beckon to others. Then there is Yin Yoga, or Tantric Yoga there is Acro Yoga even.
I like to compare yoga to the many places you can get burgers, there are different flavors and its fun to taste them all. If you are wondering about certain lineages of yoga its ok to ask questions. When looking at a studio you may also be interested in the variety of classes. Do they offer classes for kids? Do they offer partner classes? Are the classes always 60 or 90 minutes? This may be important for you if you are looking to have lots of different experiences without having to move around the city for them. If it is important to you talk to the studio manager and check out the schedule to understand the classes or workshops being offered.
It is quite alright to ask a studio about its instructors as a matter of fact typically studios share a photo and bio of all of there instructors and substitutes. When you are scared about whose in the front, the bios can help ease you with someones kind eyes. As you take classes all instructors aren’t for everyone. Some people thrive off of discipline and structure while others are less comfortable being shamed for taking a Baktasana. These are the people who are ushering you through your own experience and if you can’t trust them or take issue with their tone trust yourself. You don’t have to ask anyone to change but I have heard horror stories about people and their less than kind yoga instructors teaching from a place of firmness that doesn’t serve some students. Also there sometimes seems to be a dominance of women instructors if you value diversity look for studios that have lots of different types of instructors this includes bilingual and ethnic diversity as well as gender.
The Supported Practice
In Bikram there were never any props offered. I didn’t know about props until I joined my home studio. Many of us need props for a healthy yoga practice others can fare without the aid of a block or strap. This area is not really a deal breaker for most people because it is usually ok for students to bring what they need for their practice to class. Some studios offer free yoga mats and towels others may do so but with a nominal fee. There are some studios that have props out the asana which only work when the instructor knows how to use them effectively and safely in class. If you are looking for a studio that offers props as modifications and that is important because of your health or mobility then that is ok. All of our bodies have different needs and if you are in a different abled body looking to heal from injury or working through range of motion because of something going on with you props can allow access and replace struggle yoga. lol
All the Feels
This is what I like to consider the vibe of the studio. What is the culture? Do people seem to come and go with no sense of community? Is there a super competitive feeling that discourages you? Are people friendly or is the studio cliquish? Lets not front because this honestly sounds like visiting churches LOL…but its so similar. I can’t tell you what it should feel like, but it should feel good. Coming to class shouldn’t hurt you and being in a space where you feel invisible or feel rushed may not be good for you at some points in your practicing life. Life in the city can be quite hustle and bustle and many of our experiences can be that as well. So when exploring the studios ask yourself how it feels to be there physically and energetically. Sometimes we gravitate toward familiar meaning we find a studio that fits us but we don’t grow, other times we suffer through the experience forcing ourselves to commit to spaces that we think will help us by stepping outside of our comfort zones. It is a really big deal to be in a space that has you feeling weird about it. Some of us live in discomfort because of where we live, or where we work….almost enslaved to a lifestyle of dealing with or tolerating. Let this not be that…find a space that gives you all that you need, not just for your flex but for your feelings.